textcrits blindly following the shorter of either Sinaiticus and Vaticans

Steven Avery



pro-mormon but true anyway

Stan Larson
What Larson does not acknowledge is the United Bible Societies
committee’s well-known propensity to follow blindly the shorter
of either Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, two manuscripts noted for
their tendency to omit passages.70 What Larson, and to some
extent Tischendorf, Westcott, Hoit, Aland, et al., have fallen for
is the best manuscript fallacy.71 As A. E. Housman reminds us:
“It is in books where there is no best MS [manuscript] at all, and
the editor, in order to escape the duty of editing, is compelled to
feign one, that the worst mischief ensues.”72 There are times
when even the worst manuscripts contain readings which are
superior to those of the best manuscripts,73 and thus the pres-
ence or absence of a reading in the “best” manuscripts—even if
unanimous (pp. 119-20)—is no indication that the reading is
correct. Housman had strong criticism of methods like Larson’s:
70 J. M. Ross, “Some Unnoticed Points in the Text of the New
Testament,” Novum Testamentum 25 (1983): 59-60.

Steven Avery


Professor J.K. Elliott (Leeds/UK) writes: J.M. Ross contributed many articles to the religious and academic press for over fifty years including three in this journal: "Some Unnoticed Points in the Text of the New Testament" (25 [1983] 59- 72), "Another Look at Mark 8:36" (29 [1987] 97-99) and "The Extra Words in Acts 18:21" (34 [1992] 247-9). These and his other text-critical notes are regularly to be seen referred to in commentaries and elsewhere in the literature. Mr. Ross died aged 88 in 1997. I have inherited his unpublished textual papers, from which a selection of eighteen further "Points" is edited here as a sequel to his 1983 article. This article appears with the approval of his family. John MacDonald Ross was a rara avis in the text-critical field, being a selfconfessed amateur. Having graduated in Greats (classics) at Oxford, he worked as a civil servant in the British Home Office (the interior ministry) and before his retirement was decorated as Commander of the British Empire for his services to the Crown. His hobby of text-critical studies was recognised by his election to the exclusive academic society Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, at the annual meetings of which he attended the textual criticism seminars. His published textual notes are modelled on the taut reporting style in B.M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London/New York, 1971; Stuttgart, 21994). In editing these notes I have maintained this style: further treatment of all the issues would of course require fuller cross-references to other authorities and a greater discussion of alternative solutions, but Ross has the happy knack of spotlighting the essentials in many a complex text-critical crux and wrestles to achieve a resolution that betrays an essentially commonsense approach. We may not always agree with all his arguments but he often succeeds in making us revisit and appraise many an 'unnoticed' point.